I’m Back in Dhaka, after a 2-month summer holiday that’s taken me to France, to the Dominican Republic, and back to Bangladesh by way of Paris, where we stopped for a few days in hopes of alleviating the effects of jet lag. Fat chance. I have not been able to fall asleep at night since we landed, three days ago, and at 4 am, this morning, my confused, exhausted mind began crafting this post.
In my twenties, when I first travelled far enough to cross a few time zones, Jet Lag had a delicious, exotic quality. It meant that I had become a globe trotter. I was young, full of energy, and even as someone who’s always needed a lot of sleep, skipping a night was not worth even a passing thought.
At 30, I moved to New York City, and for a few years, I went back and forth between France and the US. Jet Lag was still exciting, still something I could negotiate without pain, but I did start to notice some patterns. It was easier to travel from France back to the US than it was to fly the other way, for instance. Going West simply meant that I’d wake up very early for a few days. Going East, well, it would take me a day or two to adjust.
In my late thirties, I became a mother. Oh boy! From one day to the other, sleep became a mirage, something elusive that you desperately long for. During the first few months, until our daughter slept at least five hours through the night, I basically stumbled about life – the perfect Zombie Mama. Taking my baby daughter to France for three weeks when she was only two months old did not help her to settle into a sleeping routine, of course. And then, we moved from New York City to Nigeria. Thankfully, our little one quickly developed the rare ability of adjusting her sleep to the needs of our schedule. Did we go to bed at 10 or 11 PM for some reason? She’d conveniently sleep until 10 or 11 AM the following morning. Not always. But all things considered, pretty often.
Then, came our second daughter, born in New York City, between our appointment in Nigeria and our new posting in India. The first few weeks in the US were slightly easier than the beginnings with our first baby because my mother, who’d come to help, this time, took the 5 AM shift. Still, when the little one turned six weeks old and we had to fly to Hyderabad, ten time zones away, the combination of postpartum hormones, accumulated fatigue, and the usual stresses linked with moving meant that I cried the entire day. I cried as I showered, and frantically packed suitcases. I cried behind my sunglasses as the taxi took us to the airport. I cried some more when we were checking in, and I had to rush to the toilet because my periods had chosen that moment to return. I was still crying in the plane as it took off, and I continued to cry until we were way over the Atlantic ocean. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to go to India. I just didn’t want to leave Brooklyn, not right then. We landed in Hyderabad around midnight, local time, exhausted beyond words, but proud that both our daughters, the 4-year-old, and the 6 weeks old, had behaved impeccably throughout the whole journey. We crashed in our hotel room, and I remember that our baby was sleeping on the bed, beside me. When I woke up, six hours had passed, and the baby was still sleeping! She’d just slept through her first night. I always attributed this little miracle to the fact that we had changed time zone and day had turned into night. A good consequence of Jet Lag.
Well, I’d entered my forties, by then, and our second daughter turned out to be quite different from her sister. She does not need a lot of sleep, and she’s not very good with Jet Lag. She’s now eight years old, and she’s spent the last three nights wide awake, and determined not to be left alone. She keeps barging into our bedroom, declaring that she has nothing to do. When it is 3 AM, and all you wish is to melt into Morpheus’ slippery embrace, having such an imperious little person around is pretty hard on your frazzled nerves. Fortunately, school started again, this morning, and she had to get up at 7 AM. I’m counting on sheer exhaustion to take care of her Jet Lag – and hopefully, mine, too. But as I prepare to exit my forties, I hereby declare that Jet Lag is no longer fun or exotic. It is a pain.